Ted Thompson and the “Moneyball” Approach to Roster Management

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has told reporters that he doesn’t play moneyball when building and turning over his roster.

Translation: Ted Thompson most definitely plays moneyball.

We all know it because he’s not afraid to let players walk away if the contracts don’t add up to his perceived value to the team. He’d rather replace that production with younger and cheaper players who have their best days in front of them.

Many Packers fans bemoan the loss of productive, yet aging, players in free agency to other teams who had no problem dishing out the large contracts that Thompson simply wouldn’t. Was Thompson simply cheap? Or was he genius in hindsight?

Signing high-priced free agents is a double-edged sword. There’s the old adage that a general manager should do whatever it takes to bring in a player he covets, whether through overpaying with draft picks or with big contracts. However, overpaying a player on the decline can have devastating effects on the salary cap, especially if a player under-performs the contract and is released early, resulting in dead money.

Let’s take a look at some highly notable free agents that Thompson let walk and evaluate if it was a good or bad decision. Hindsight is always fun, isn’t it?

2005 Signing Period

Mike Wahle, Guard. The Carolina Panthers signed the 27 year old guard for 5 years/$25 million. Back in 2005, that was a pretty large contract for a non-left tackle. Wahle was released after three seasons in a cost-cutting measure amid reports that he wasn’t playing very well.

Verdict: Thompson was correct. Wahle was overpaid and he under-performed, and he was unceremoniously shown the door. The Packers did make the NFC Championship Game in 2007, and they didn’t lose because of their guard play.

Marco Rivera, Guard. Similarly to Wahle, Thompson let Rivera walk after the 2004 season for a richer contract elsewhere. Dallas had no problem signing the then-32 year old Rivera to 5 years/$20 million contract. This contract was called one of the worst ever by the Cowboys because Rivera was released after an unspectacular two seasons plagued by chronic back issues.

Verdict: Thompson was correct. Rivera was overpaid and he under-performed, and he was unceremoniously shown the door. The Packers did make the NFC Championship Game in 2007, and they didn’t lose because of their guard play. 

2007 Signing Period

Ahman Green, Running Back. Despite his fumbles, Green was beloved by Packers fans and became the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. However, Thompson chose to not re-sign the 30 year old running back, which is very old for the position. A desperate Houston had no problem offering him a 4 year/$23 million contract. Green was released after only two seasons, but he was interestingly brought back to Green Bay in another move of desperation.

Verdict: Thompson was correct. Despite being paid big money to be the featured back in Houston, Green only managed to rush for 554 yards in two seasons plagued by injuries. In today’s NFL, teams are better off drafting a young running back and getting fresh production that way.

2009 Signing Period

Colin Cole, Defensive Tackle. The Seattle Seahawks gave Cole a 5 year/$21.4 million contract to be an anchor on their defensive line. He lasted only two seasons before being released.

Verdict: Thompson was correct. In his two years in Seattle, he only managed 65 solo tackles and one quarterback sack. Somehow, he’s still in the league. Good for him.

2010 Signing Period

Aaron Kampman, Linebacker/Defensive End. The case of Kampman is different from other players being discussed here because he suffered a severe knee injury during 2009. Also, due the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, Kampman moved from his more natural defensive end position to a rush outside linebacker. Jacksonville still had no problem giving the 30 year old Kampman a 4 year/$24 million contract to play a 4-3 defensive end.

Verdict: Thompson was correct. Not only was Kampman not a good fit for the 3-4 defense in Green Bay, he only lasted a half of a season in Jacksonville before injuries forced him to retire from the game altogether. In his eight games there, he managed 4 sacks and 16 solo tackles. Even at his native defensive end, he wasn’t effective at all.

2011 Signing Period

Brandon Jackson, Running Back. After helping win a Super Bowl, Thompson decided to not re-sign the part-time running back. Cleveland had no problem giving him a 2 year/$4.5 contract that he never lived up to.  In his two years in Cleveland, Jackson was injury plagued and managed only 54 total rushing yards.

Verdict: Thompson was correct. Signing running backs to second contracts is risky business in the modern NFL, and Jackson was quickly out of the league.

Daryn Colledge, Guard. Similarly to Jackson, Colledge helped the Packers win a Super Bowl but was not returned the favor with a lucrative contract. He used his Super Bowl success to leverage Arizona into giving him a 5 year/$27.5 million contract. He did go on to have a productive stint in Arizona, but was released from his contract after three seasons. After one season in Miami, he announced his retirement just four years removed from leaving Green Bay for greener pastures.

Verdict: Thompson was correct. Yes, Colledge did have a good stretch in Arizona and may have very well lived up to expectations out there, although he was released before he could finish the contract, suggesting he under-performed. Also, in his absence, T.J. Lang was allowed to develop and flourish, and he’s still in the league today while Colledge is at home enjoying his retired life. Had Colledge stuck around, we might not have T.J. currently owning the right guard position this season going forward.

Jason Spitz, Center/Guard. Spitz was a starter for the Packers early in his career before being replaced full-time by Scott Wells during the 2009 season.  Jacksonville opened their wallets to this backup in the hopes he’d anchor their line at the tune of 3 years/$5.25 million. He only played one season in Jacksonville and started no games before being lost to injury.

Verdict: Thompson may have been correct. Spitz did nothing for the Jaguars, so they definitely overpaid and got nothing in return. Scott Wells was the next center for the Packers, but he left in 2012 (see below), and they had musical chairs at the center position for the next two seasons. It’s hard to tell if having Spitz around would have given them depth and production during a few turbulent years, even if it meant overpaying for him. Seeing as he couldn’t even win a starting job in Jacksonville, I’m inclined to believe Thompson was right.

Cullen Jenkins, Defensive End. For many fans, this loss still haunts. He was no doubt a key cog in the Super Bowl defense, but Thompson opted to not re-sign the aging defensive end. Philadelphia signed him to 5 years/$25 million. He lasted only two years in Philadelphia, and that is even after he restructured his contract after his first season there. Despite this appearance of massive production by Packers fans, he managed only 9.5 sacks in his two years for the Eagles before being released.

Verdict: Thompson may have been correct. Those 9.5 sacks would have come in handy during 2011-2012, but his overall production didn’t match his contract, which is evidenced by only playing two of the five years on it. He was 30 years old when leaving Green Bay, so he was definitely a player on the decline.

2012 Signing Period

Greg Jennings, Wide Receiver. Jennings was a very productive receiver, and the Vikings signed him to a 5 year/$47.5 million contract to be their number 1 receiver. After two mediocre seasons, he never matched his Green Bay productivity and he was released. In those two seasons, he caught 127 balls for 1546 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those aren’t horrible numbers, but they aren’t worthy of premier wide receiver dollars.

Verdict: Thompson was absolutely correct. Jennings left Green Bay as a screaming brat and then never lived up to the hype. The money saved by not signing Jennings undoubtedly went towards locking up Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb long-term. There’s no way Thompson would carry three receivers on the roster averaging $9-10 million per season, and I think Nelson and Cobb are the better players at this point.

Scott Wells, Center. Wells was a decent center, but never quite spectacular in Green Bay. At age 31, St. Louis lured him away with a 4 year/$24 million contract. That’s rich for a center who wasn’t even the best lineman on the Packers’ roster. Wells lasted three seasons in St. Louis before being released. His play was decent, but certainly not worthy of $6 million a season.

Verdict: Probably a push. Wells would have come in handy during 2012 when the Packers had an unmitigated disaster at the center position. However, as time shows, his best days were behind him and he’s currently looking for a team this off season after a disastrous season where Pro Football Focus (paid site, so no link) rated him as one of the worst centers in the league.

2013 Signing Period

Erik Walden, Linebacker. Despite showing some flash, he also showed complete ineptitude against mobile quarterbacks and zone read attacks. Still, Indianapolis seemed desperate when they offered him a 4 year/$16 million contract. That’s not a huge contract by today’s standards, but when you consider he’s managed only 51 solo tackles and 9 sacks at the premier outside linebacker position, he’s grossly overpaid. He’s still in Indianapolis, but he’ll be fighting for a job during this training camp.

Verdict: Thompson was absolutely correct. Walden is overpaid and under-performs.  As bad as Nick Perry seems at times, he’s still better than Walden. He frequently looks out of place and still hasn’t solved the mobile quarterback and zone read attacks.

2014 Signing Period

James Jones, Wide Receiver. Jones was a productive number 2 and 3 receiver while in Green Bay. He had a monster 2012 campaign when he caught 14 touchdowns, but he never managed more than 817 yards in a season. With Nelson and Cobb on the roster, the 30 year old Jones was destined to be the number 3 in Green Bay, but Oakland gave him a chance to be the number 1 or 2 with a 3  year/$10 million contract. After one mediocre year, he was just released by Oakland.

Verdict: Thompson was correct. Jones never lived up to the hype or contract, and he’s currently looking for a new team. Interestingly, Rotoworld posted they wouldn’t be surprised if he never plays a down of football again because he was that bad.

——————

What does this all mean?

Based on the examples above, it means that Ted Thompson is good at reading the tea leaves. He’s good at not overpaying players on the decline or players that will never justify the big contracts that desperate teams will shell out. Almost every example above shows that players Thompson passed on didn’t go on to be superstars or All Pros. They didn’t live out their contracts, which means they didn’t play to the value they were signed to or injuries caught up with them.

Sure, no one can predict injury, but players that spend their careers banged up are often one play away from the the career-ending shot, such as Rivera and Kampman. Thompson likes to invest in young players on the rise and not players breaking down on their decent into middle age.

By letting players walk out of town to larger contracts, he’s able to build a core around young players like Randall Cobb, Mike Daniels, Sam Shields, and many others.

When the contracts above speak for themselves, I think many of you will agree that Thompson made the right calls. Other teams are responsible for all the dead money from these failed deals, and that has helped keep the Packers’ cap clean for years.

——————

Jay Hodgson is an independent sports blogger writing for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WISports.com.

Follow Jay on twitter at @jys_h.

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  • Razer

    I think Thompson and the coaches have done a pretty good job of developing and evaluating talent. All the guys that you cite, were over-paid by other teams. I would not discount the fact that, while they played for the Packers, they played for a good, well-coached team. Going to Jacksonville, Minnesota, Cleveland or Oakland will not bring out the best in a player. There was a lot of ‘nurture’ working for those guys. Maybe Thompson is good at recognizing the athlete who is playing up to a higher potential because of the team around them.

  • Douglas Rogalla

    in Ted do we trust

  • Overall I think he’s been a very good judge of letting go of aging Packers talent – although to be fair, Woodson was pretty darn good for the Raiders last year.

    Where I think his biggest failing is relying TOO MUCH on his ability to replace talent with the draft every time. Think safety in 12, RB in 11-12, ILB in 14, NT in 14. Mid level free agency can help teams without destroying the cap, and without completely getting rid of the much sought after comp picks.

    • BRinMilwaukee

      I couldn’t agree more. He’s sooooo close to being the complete GM. He drafts effectively, he manages the salary cap better than anyone, and he knows when to let players leave when the price gets too high. But he refuses to patch holes with mid-level free agency or trades, leaving us vulnerable every year to injuries and weak positions.

      • aaronqb

        He is the complete GM. He just does thinks differently than the average fan would like. The results speak for themselves.

        • BRinMilwaukee

          Sigh. ONE Super Bowl appearance in 10 years as GM, in spite of having 2 Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks? I’m sorry, those ‘results’ aren’t all that impressive. If you have Aaron Rodgers as your franchise quarterback, you’d have to be a complete idiot NOT to contend for a Super Bowl every year.

          • Jay

            There are 32 teams in the league, and about 25 of them would have loved at least one Super Bowl appearance in the last decade.

            • BRinMilwaukee

              And 31 of them would love to have Aaron Rodgers.

              • Jay

                How many Super Bowls has Peyton Manning won? Drew Brees?

                Same as Rodgers.

                And don’t forget about Dan Marino, who never won one, who was probably the best mechanical passer the game has ever seen.

              • BRinMilwaukee

                Jay– I wasn’t defending Marino’s GM, I was suggesting that this deification of Ted Thompson was excessive. 31 GMs signed a free agent this year, 1 did not. That was Ted. Were the other 31 GMs wrong?? I’m sorry, but ONE Super Bowl appearance in TEN years, with Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre as your quarterbacks, does not earn my BLIND trust. My lack of blind trust upsets some people.

              • Peter Maiz

                I’m with you there.

          • Lagos

            Which years did the Packers not contend for a super bowl under Thompson?

          • aaronqb

            And who drafted Aaron Rodgers? Recommend you look in the mirror to see who the complete idiot is.

          • AgrippaLII

            You mean like the Saints do?

          • Botswana Jones

            Foremost, there have only been 9 full season under Ted. It is also extremely hard to get to the Super Bowl and in the last decade there have been some great teams to contend with: Patriots, Giants, Saints, Seahawks, Steerlers, Ravens… The Pack have been contenders every year since about 2007, except for Rogers first year starting of 2008. It’s hard enough to win the division and/or make the playoffs. You BR, and many other Packers fans are spoiled and take things for granted. Probably because you are young and weren’t around for the mediocrity of the 70’s and 80’s. Also, every team is vulnerable to injuries and every team has weak points, even those who win the Super Bowl, so that point is moot. Your lack of blind trust isn’t as annoying as your whining and your errant beliefs, e.g. that “low cost veterans” and mid level free agents who will take reasonable contracts and make a significant impact just grow on trees.The Broncos made a huge splash in free agency a few years ago, how did that work out? The Saints utterly screwed their cap, how are they doing? And if you are so against “deification” of people, why deify AR? Does he not have a history of lackluster performances in the post season? The Packers are great, and have been, for many years now, but have you ever heard the phrase “any given Sunday?” Nothing is guaranteed, even with an elite QB. Go ahead and make your rebuttal as you of course will, seeing that you respond to almost every comment on here. I have made my points and won’t engage in an argument. And since you are young and probably have the attention span of a bonobo monkey on crack, here is the tl; dr version:
            If you are that desperate for Super Bowls just bandwagon whoever wins each year.
            Peace, I’m out.

            • BRinMilwaukee

              Botswana Jones– Like you, I won’t spend too much time on someone who calls me a “bonobo monkey on crack,” but I have to respond to a couple of things. First, there have been 10 full seasons under Ted, not 9. Please check your facts. Since Ted’s first year, New England, Pittsburgh, and Seattle have all been to THREE Super Bowls, and the Colts and Giants have been to TWO Super Bowls. Even the Bears have been to 1 Super Bowl in that time. Only New England had a quarterback as good as Rodgers (or Favre). ALL THAT SAID, I’m not disagreeing with you– I like Ted Thompson. He’s a very good GM. He keeps us competitive every year, drafts well, manages our salary cap, and doesn’t mortgage our future for short-term gain. I’m not young, I’m 54, and I remember the 70’s quite well. GOD FORBID I suggest that Ted has a blind spot (re: player acquisition) that might cost us a few championships.

    • Jay

      I mostly agree with you, but Thompson was expecting a healthy Raji to own the nose in 14 and he brought in Guion for a very cheap contract to back him up.

      • Periodic Rant: Never, ever, give Raji a bunch of guaranteed money. End rant.

        • BRinMilwaukee

          Yeah, Raji is all about the money, and living off his past achievements. If Raji can get by with less, he will. Keep him hungry, or keep him gone.

          • Oppy

            I don’t even think Raji can be a stand out NT when he’s starving. He’s a shitty 3-4 NT.

    • Razer

      Yeah, I agree that Thompson has missed or avoided opportunities to hire some temp talent to get us over the top. Despite what we might think of Bill Belichick, he has used free agency and late season acquisitions to strengthen the roster. With our annual cap surplus, we have not utilized all the options available to get to the finish line. Of course, the finish line may be to field a competitive, playoff potential team.

      • BRinMilwaukee

        The trick is to avoid having a Jeremy Ross muff a punt, or a Brandon Bostick muff a Super Bowl appearance. Too many youthful players sometimes make key mistakes that keep us from getting “over the top.” Low-cost veteran patches could help!

        • Taryn Miller

          “Too many youthful players sometimes make key mistakes that keep us from getting “over the top.”

          As the mistakes and stupid at times via the should know better veterans is swept under the rug.

          Daniels getting a 15 yd unsportsman while not even being on the field….Matthews blind side hit on Wilson….perhaps neither the reason for a/the loss but nonetheless penalties that hindered a flow of the game for the better to some extent. 🙂

          • Lagos

            Not to mention that every player not named Mason Crosby had a notable part in the loss. It was a complete team failure.

          • TedTomsin

            Don’t forget the king of int’s the oldest guy on the field, Mr. Brett Favre throwing up ducks in the NFC Championship game against the Giants.
            Ted

            • BRinMilwaukee

              Can’t argue with that….

          • BRinMilwaukee

            I’d also add Peppers telling Burnett to go down after the INT, which started the collapse. But Bostick’s mistake was #1 on the fail list. Ugh- it still hurts.

    • Rossonero

      Amen Bearmeat! There is risk in the draft just as there is in free agency. If TT wants to be conservative, he can still at least make an attempt to plug critical holes like safety in 2012. He admitted that he dropped the ball with the back-up QB disaster of 2013 (I.e. Vince Young). One or two mid-level FAs to preserve the cap and he is the No. 1 GM hands down. I am grateful we have him nonetheless.

      • BRinMilwaukee

        At least he keeps us competitive every year. Nobody wants some short-term thinker to wreck our salary cap. I just wish he had that extra something. I keep feeling we’ll be “good” or “very good” every year, but never “great.”

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  • packersfansrule

    this article indicates that Ted is better at this than quite a few folks give him credit for.

  • Tundraboy

    Well written and spot on. I’m ready for MM time now and the returning 1st year players and UDFA progress. TT did his job now its MM turn to shape the team. Hows Hubbard doing? Janis? etc

  • Savage57

    What this points to, is that Ted likes to do what he knows – his own roster. As shown, he’s willing to let his guys walk if the money doesn’t reconcile in his mind and he’s fairly certain he has the next guy already on the roster.

    Where Ted gets a little janky is also his inclination to throw some pretty serious coin at his guys and go long, vis a vis Finley, Hawk, Tramon, who don’t always play to the contract either.

    • Oppy

      Finley was a let down, but Hawk was paid (IMO of course) for his loyalty and his value to the defense as opposed to his production. Tramon Williams deserved his money, he was an excellent corner who had an unfortunate shoulder injury that hampered him for two seasons. I thought last year he had put together an near-excellent season that largely flew under the radar, however, he certainly blew the final and most important coverage of the season. Overall, however- yes, TT pays a loyalty premium to his long term guys who serve to fill a role on the team.

      • Peter Maiz

        Loyalty doesn’t a run stop.

  • I agree with your general comments and most of the examples. I feel cap and roster management is TT’s greatest strength. As to Cullen Jenkins, I think it was more of a push then you made it seem. The 5 yr. $25 million contract you note actually could be transmuted into a 1 year, $4 million deal with no dead money after the first season. Philly thought enough of him to restructure him the next year and pay over $5 million, then cut him. A lot of his sacks tended to come early in the season. I don’t blame TT for not re-signing him. There was some acrimony by the time Cullen realized that other teams did not value him as much as he thought they would.

    The case involving Wahle is also more complicated. He did not play out his contract in GB. TT cut him because Sherman gave him too much money. TT cut him to save $11 million, including $6 million in the cap for 2005 alone. He was a good player for Carolina (named to the pro bowl and again as an alternate to the pro bowl). Carolina cut him because they gave him too much money, and his cap number would have been $7.2 million (for the 2008 season, which is more than Sitton’s cap number this year). He had a shoulder injury in 2006 which required surgery – SLAP injury, and this hurt his pass pro. He played 10 games for Seattle, all starts. He probably was playing through the injury in 2007 and 2008. Seattle considered him to still be a dominant run blocker, especially as a pulling guard, but 3.5 sacks allowed in 10 games was a warning. He had arthroscopic surgery but never recovered. Seattle ate a big hunk of dead money, and Carolina ate a pretty decent amount of dead money. So I guess in hindsight you are right about Wahle, but injuries to players who are just 27 can’t be predicted. TT cut him due to his exorbitant contract. Sitton (edit: and Lang) both become FA for the 2017 season, when Sitton will be 31 and Lang turns 30. If TT re-signs either, I bet the guaranteed money will be under control. See the links for Wahle below (I couldn’t help but throw in the allgbp article that scolds TT for not resigning Wahle).

    You could write an article on moneyball in relation to TT’s FA signings. Other than Marquand Manuel (5 yr $10 million but only $1.2 million dead money) and perhaps Adrian Klemm, also for small loss, TT FA signings have been very good, IMO. Pickett, Woodson and Peppers (though Pepp needs to give us another good year, IMO, before one can say it was a good signing) have all been solid to excellent.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=nfl&id=2002706

    http://www.ultimateffstrategy.com/2008-seahawks-line-analysis/
    http://forums.twobillsdrive.com/topic/18611-potential-nfl-salary-cap-cuts/
    http://allgbp.com/2011/08/17/the-best-and-worst-of-packers-gm-ted-thompson-%E2%80%93-part-2-the-misses/

    • Jay

      You are correct about Wahle being cut for cap space. I included him in my article because many fans still cry that Thompson let him walk and the line was never the same after, as if he made some huge fatal error. It’s common to have players restructure their contracts into more cap friendly numbers, which is something Thompson had Hawk do a few times. Bottom line about Wahle, though, is if Thompson really wanted him in Green Bay, he would have tried to get a contract done–Thompson has been shown to pay his own very well–Shields, Nelson, Raji, Matthews, Cobb, etc.

      • True. IMO releasing Wahle was necessary. I don’t remember whether TT asked Wahle to re-structure or re-negotiate his contract or if Wahle thought being a FA was too good to pass up coming off a pro bowl year and said no. Once a player hits free agency, it only takes one profligate team ($7.2 million cap hit indeed!). Wahle met with only one team, and signed ASAP before they had time come to their senses and withdraw the offer.

        BTW, I loved the article.

        • Jay

          Thanks, I appreciate that. Looking more closely at Wahle’s numbers, he was due a $6 mil roster bonus for 2005. As is standard in the NFL, contracts are back loaded to give the appearance of length, but those with huge roster bonuses are essentially shorter deals. The Packers never had any intention of paying Wahle the full value of the contract, so he was essentially a free agent after the 2004 season despite the appearance of his contract going though 2005.

  • Taryn Miller

    The draft is like an unending supply of milk from a cow for TT,which means he never really has to go to the store (FA) to buy someone else’s as like many others do yearly.

    I said before,that if you can grab and develop 3 players a year worthy of a second contract or a long term restructure of the rookie deal you’re doing something right and the holes will fill themselves naturally even if some filler are one contract deals and done/let go’s regardless of the why’s.

    As much as some complain about the draft and the lack of FA’s signed etc,TT is hitting on the 3 players a year worthy of second contracts keeping the store visits to a bare minimum and allowing himself to put those of near/certain age on the shelf of soon to be expiration dates for those without a real milking cow.

    Salary cap restrictions may offer the look like the Moneyball system but the Draft and Develop certainly makes it easier to do so.

    • Jay

      I agree, and the draft and develop system is the moneyball approach. Like you said, Thompson can hit on 2 or 3 draft picks a year, who are younger and cheaper than the 2 or 3 free agents he lets leave every year. Moneyball in its most basic form is replacing the production with cheaper price tags. If he lets a 3-down DL go in free agency, he can replace the 3 downs with a 2-down run stuffer and a 3rd down pass rusher via the draft for a fraction of the cost.

    • TedTomsin

      Excellent Taryn!!
      Ted

  • TedTomsin

    Wow!! I knew Ted was one of the best out there but when you put this list of guys in front of us, it on reinforces his greatness. The guy scored a 100 on his test. He got every answer correct when to let a guy go. It’s amazing how good he is yet there’s still the doubters. I noticed Archie, Nemo and Big T didn’t comment. I wonder why. lol
    Ted

    • First, be careful what you wonder about. And I’d take you up on your comment if I had the research time, and discuss TT’s mistakes on re-signing and extending his own players.

      • TedTomsin

        Go ahead, make my day!! I’ll save you the research as I have done it. Trading Dr. Samkon Gado for Vernand Morency was TT’s only big mistake. Gado went on to greatness with Houston, Miami and the Rams.
        Ted

    • Taryn Miller

      ” I noticed Archie, Nemo and Big T didn’t comment. I wonder why. lol ”

      http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cohID8fiAg

      all in fun guys… 🙂

  • SenorMogul9

    I agree with the pass/fail grade on each of TT’s moves. I also agree that letting James Jones sign elsewhere was a good move. However, i sharply disagree with the editorial comments regarding James Jones. JJ was in fact the Raiders’ #1 WR last year. His numbers WERE “mediocre” (by Jordy standards), but nobody (Jerry Rice included) was going to have stud WR numbers for the Raiders last year. They had a rookie QB and basically didn’t trust him throwing the ball more than 10 yards down the field most of the time.

    I was VERY surprised the Raiders released him. They still don’t have much depth at WR and are one injury or Crabtree meltdown from being back in last year’s boat of not having any proven WR’s to go to. Bad move by the Raiders, imho.

    • Jay

      I agree with most of what you mention, but here’s a direct quote from Rotoworld about Jones:

      “averaged a pathetic 9.12 yards per catch. He was a sub-pedestrian slot receiver and has never been an efficient separator on the perimeter. We wouldn’t be completely shocked if Jones has played his last NFL down.”

      • SenorMogul9

        I saw that Rotoworld “analysis”, and let’s just say that i totally disagree with it. JJ played in the slot last year (for the first time), so by definition, he’s catching short balls. Put on top of that the state of the Raiders’ offense last year (bad offensive line, rookie QB, midseason coaching change), the Raiders had a barely-functioning-at-all offense. JJ was not the problem. JJ WILL get picked up, and i would not be shocked if he had a great year. I think he’s got a few years left in the tank.

        • Jay

          The slot receiver by definition does not only catch short passes. One of the most popular passing concepts in the NFL is the “smash” combo, and that calls for the slot to run a deep corner.

          • SenorMogul9

            Lol, i didn’t mean to insinuate that there was a “barrier” on the field that kept a slot guy from running a deep corner. Of course, he “can”, but the slot guy’s primary job is to be open for the short 5-8 yard gain, a check down guy if a deeper pattern isn’t open. When JJ played for the Packers, he was not a slot guy, and he’d never played the slot until this past year. Put that, a weak OL and a rookie QB that they were trying to protect, and his numbers were (predictably) going to go down. Just sayin’….

    • I agree about Jones. But it was not an editorial comment – I checked and rotoworld really did make that comment. Jones is still relatively cheap and is being paid like a #3 receiver.

  • Jay

    As a preemptive message in case people are wondering about cherry picking, I didn’t include the low-priced free agents that hardly anyone complained about. Including them would have made the article too long without adding anything of substance. For example, adding Zombo, Wynn, Kapinos, Crabtree, and Hall wouldn’t offer much.

    Also, the case of Charles Woodson wasn’t a free agency loss. He was cut due to age and contract. You could make the same claim about Wahle, but that was over a roster bonus of a heavily back-loaded contract that the Packers never had any intention of paying, so he was essentially a free agent after fulfilling the shorter contract they intended for him the whole time.

  • Thomas Hobbes

    As much as I think that Ted Thompson is one of the best GMs in the league, the results you list are probably a little biased. The reason I say that is that the majority of free agents are busts and not worth the contract given to them; for instance I wouldn’t say that the Lions made the right decision to let Suh walk because they actually dug themselves into a hole by guaranteeing more and more of his contract every year which forced their hand, but if you look at it as whether or not the Dolphins will get their monies worth, there is no way Suh can match his contract. Realisitically there’s only 1 or 2 players maybe every 5 years that really outperform their free agent contracts in the salary cap era, Charles Woodson was certainly one of them and Thompson should be commended for that. But as they say, players hit free agency for a reason, teams have plenty of mechanisms to retain their own players should they choose.

  • Mark

    TT was correct in assessing the players mentioned. But those players were also correct in getting the big money while they could. Jennings may have been an exception to this, however. With #12 throwing to him, he was a star that was a big help winning the SB and going 15-1 the next year. He might have lost a few dollars staying with us, but he still would have been productive and made the money back in other ways.

  • Chad Lundberg

    A lot of these push it just a tad. While TT has been right on the majority, maybe even the vast majority in letting his FA’s go, you make it sound like he was right EVERY time!

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m right, TT didn’t even want Jackson to leave, he had offered him a new contract but Jackson declined.

    James Jones and Greg Jennings? Please, there is a SIGNIFICANT difference between their offense and ours, most importantly the quarterback throwing to them. I for one still think TT made a mistake in letting JJ walk, and he probably should have signed GJ back when he had the chance (although I have since changed my opinion on this because of Ty Montgomery). Had JJ been there in the NFC Championship game, just one more reception would have made all the difference, instead Rodgers was forced to use his only two WR’s who were struggling and unable to make a catch when it absolutely mattered most.

    • Jay

      Quarterback differences, yes. Offensive philosophies, no. The NFL route trees and route combinations are virtually identical. Football isn’t this quantum mechanics equation that so many want to believe. It’s a quite a simple game and a player can play or he can’t.

      • Chad Lundberg

        My point with “different offenses” was that one, the Vikings were used to having a great running game, not a passing one. AP was suspended which completely threw off their playbook and gameplan, so they suddenly had to completely switch gears. And two, Mike McCarthy is an offensive GENIUS who has been with GB for a decade now, compared to the schmucks who coach the vikings who are still very new to their team.

        Yes, I stand by my statement that these two offenses are QUITE different.

  • Mojo

    I’ve always felt that Ted’s best attribute as a GM was his letting certain players walk. Most weren’t worth anything close to what other teams signed them for. Very few did anything noteworthy afterwards and many were out-and-out busts with their new teams, if they got a job at all.

    I wish you had a list of all the players Thompson let go. Most people would be surprised by how little they did once leaving.

    Ted haters have always lamented how he let Wahle go, but if I recall he did make a very good offer that Carolina topped. I think a big part of it was Wahle just wanted to leave. It wasn’t as though he had no interest in resigning him (similar to G. Jennings).

    One player I wish he resigned was Cullen Jenkins. I thought he had a few good years left in him and really wanted to stay in GB. It’s been a struggle to find good interior players since he left.

  • mark

    wow I have read a lot of things that did not make sense but none like this. Injuries count for some players but not others? Adding 2 OL onto the 2007 team would probably have resulted in a win over giants instead of a heartbreaking loss. Go back and watch our guards and see, look at our running game, look at the pass protection. wow are you related to thompson?

  • tc

    Not to mention all the compensation picks,
    Unless you mentioned it in the article, I read it pretty fast.
    Made great since. I like Teds style.